It seems that they are at loggerheads again. The Fire Brigades Union, which has a history of industrial actions in Essex, has stated that its members could be balloted for industrial action in the near future. The union are keen to point out that at this stage action will fall short of all out strikes. That means that Thurrock fire-fighters based at Grays, Orsett and Corringham would refuse to do overtime and act up.
We’ve been here before. Essex FBU went on strike twice in the late nineties over issues relating to fire cover and manning of specialised appliances. Those disputes were never satisfactorily resolved and this time its more or less the same issues.
Brigade management has stated via its published Integrated Risk Management Plan that it need to reduce the number of fire-fighter posts by 44 and shuffle round the way its fire-fighters man some machines. They haven’t raised the ugly subject of shift pattern changes which has been mooted in other brigades.
There’s some big money at stake as well. Huge savings have to be found across the brigade and the union will argue that running two Service headquarters, employing 5 officers at Assistant Chief Level and increasing its admin staff by over 30% in the last ten years are the areas where cutbacks should be made, not on frontline fire-fighters.
Management will counter argue that they are not doing anything that other brigades have been doing for some time and they want value for money. Ariel Ladder Platforms for example are a highly necessary piece of equipment but are seldom “got to work” and the senior officers will say that they are trying to get the best strategic use.
The union is between a rock and a hard place. They are well aware that any talk of strike action is suicidal in the current climate and where before, they were the public darlings, asking for support when so many don’t have employment is just not on. The trick is to take action short of all out strikes that effect management and not the public. For years they have taken action which has proved innefectual and only hurts their own members and saves the authority money. They have to stand firm though to protest what they see are cutbacks in the wrong direction.
Yourthurrock spoke to Paul Adams, the Brigade union secretary, and we shall invite the CFO of Essex David Johnson to be interviewed as well.